The 2017 Hall of Fame ballots were sent out and there are three intriguing new names on the list: Pudge Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero. Pudge was one of the best catchers of all-time, an absolute defensive magician, and Manny being Manny meant fans got to witness one of the greatest hitters in the game's long history. However, both men are caught up in the PED psychodrama that's infected voters, so unless things change next year, neither will get into Cooperstown. Which is really unfair to Pudge, as all the "proof" is because Jose Canseco said so.
That's an argument for another time; today is all about remembering the greatness of Guerrero. Vladdy Daddy was a mold-breaker, an actual one-of-a-kind who did things on the field that defied physical space and time. A man for which a "strike zone" did not exist, a dope outfielder with a Howitzer, who did what so few have ever done: made baseball cool.
In case you've forgotten, let's circle the bases with Vlad the Impaler.
Here is said cannon, unleashed on-a-big-hop from right center to nail Alberto Castillo at the plate. With plenty of time to spare.
Calling Vlad a "free swinger" doesn't do justice to the freedom he found in the batter's box. He was a grown-ass man playing wiffleball and owning 50 Cent in a way that only makes sense for him. A ball bouncing in the dirt? Vlad's got this.
It's been far too long since we saw Guerrero uncork one. How about from the deepest regions of Shea Stadium?
The Home Run Derby is kinda dumb, except when Vlad is letting his freak bat fly. Here he is in 2007 mashing 17 taters in San Francisco to make Willie McCovey himself smile.
Guerrero's numbers are solid—2,590 hits, 449 HRs, 1,496 RBIs, career .318/.379/.553/.931, 9 All-Star game appearances, the 2004 A.L. MVP—but he has plenty of deficiencies, baserunning being a major one. A Fan Graphs analysis says that Vlad "doesn't have a great peak-value argument and, statistically, finds himself squarely in the middle of the pack." He's got a shot, but Vlad's not a lock.
We're on record as saying the Hall of Fame, and the arguments about who "deserves" to be enshrined, is a complete waste of time. I'm doubling down if Vlad doesn't get in. The dude was just so much damn fun, which is way more important than WAR. Here's a couple of passages from Jonah Keri's terrific Expos history Up, Up & Away that should seal the deal, but probably won't.
Manny Acta (former Expos third-base coach): "He drank like a fish. Ate a ton. Fifty thousand cans of beer, and a bag of rice. Never bothered him. He'd show up to the park hung over, and hit bombs, like it was nothing.
Acta: Vlad comes to the park one day, rubbing his palms together. 'Kevin Brown is pitching today, I'm going to crush him.' Keep in mind Kevin Brown might've had the nastiest sinker of his generation. He has a decent Hall of Fame argument. First pitch: monster home run. [Vlad] comes back to the dugout, cackling. Cackling!"
Put Vlad in the Hall. For making the Atlanta Braves announcers and their talk of "white flags" sound like jackasses, he deserves it alone.